Crime Bytes: Durham Police to no longer actively pursue cannabis smokers and small-scale growers in order to prioritise more serious crime
In a move that attempts to shift away from the criminalisation of drug users and free up resources to tackle more serious crime, Durham Police force have stated that they will no longer be actively pursuing cannabis smokers and small-scale growers.
Ron Hogg, Durham’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) explained that the move was an effort to save money and keep drug users out of the criminal justice system, so that resources could be focused on tackling organised crime. Whilst the force will still tackle commercial cannabis farms, those who grow and use at home will no longer be actively targeted and pursued. Anyone caught with cannabis will be given the opportunity to avoid prosecution by signing up to a crime reduction initiative. Hogg explains that this approach would allow addicts to receive the help they needed, while allowing people caught with small amounts of the drug to be treated in a “fair and measured” way.
He explains: “Drugs cause immense harm to our communities. The question is how we tackle them. There hasn’t been a change in policy. We are taking an approach which reduces harm – by focusing on stopping people from using drugs, and tackling the organised gangs who are the source of the supply…. There’s a resource issue, we must also be clear about that, but we are doing it because it’s the right approach.”
The move follows a conference hosted by Hogg in Durham last November where police, drugs professionals and activists debated the future of drugs policy. Hogg stated that he hoped by setting out Durham’s position, it would spark a national debate around drug laws. He adds, “Of course it is up to the government to change the law but I trying to open up a debate about drugs and drugs policy.”
In the wake of these statements, a petition calling for cannabis legalisation in the United Kingdom has now amassed over 150,000 signatures, and the issue is subsequently awaiting a date for debate in the House of Commons.